By Mark Featherman
For the last five years, I've been riding my bicycle 12 miles to work in all kinds of weather - from 98-degree "heat warning" days to days when the wind chill is near zero. You've probably seen me on the Kelly Drive bike path when it's raining, or so hot you think you might melt, and laughed at the wet guy on the bike, wondering why someone would subject himself to the elements like that.
Well, I love to ride bikes, and riding to work lets me indulge my passion without taking too much time away from my family. Riding my bike from Elkins Park takes me less time then it takes to drive by car, and about the same as the train. So instead of getting mad at a bunch of backed-up traffic, or crowding into a train with a bunch of snarly commuters, I get to check out the beauty of the sun reflecting on the Schuylkill, the rowers in the early morning, the feel of the breeze in my face.
The weather isn't a problem if you plan ahead. I belong to a gym near my office where I keep a change of clothes. A quick shower and a clothes change, and I'm good to go. During the winter months, I can stay warm if I layer properly. Most critically, when darkness falls early, I use lights.
There's a whole brother- and sisterhood of people who commute. I see many of the same faces on the bike path, from the "professor" who rides at a maddeningly slow pace, to the girl on the mountain bike that's too small for her, to the many hipsters on fixed gears. My favorite is the guy I see riding his bike with a suit on. He is pretty fast, too.
Of course, there are drawbacks and dangers to "cardio commuting" as well. From cars, mostly. Motorists absolutely hate to wait for a bike. People will cut you off so they can speed up to a red light, make turns in front of you to save a few seconds, curse at you for taking up some of
road. I used to yell at drivers who did that, or give them a special one-finger wave. I don't do that anymore, though. Maybe it was the lady who intentionally ran into to me - miraculously, I didn't crash - or maybe it was the elderly gentleman who pulled over and got out of his car with a crowbar. Now, I just smile.
Curiously, other people on the bike path are also a menace. The in-line skater drifting all over the place, the runner making a random U-turn, or, sadly, my fellow cyclists going too fast with too little control on the bike path. I've crashed twice on the bike path thanks to bad moves by these "pathletes."
The benefits of cardio commuting far outweigh these negatives. Of course, it keeps me fit and allows me to eat what I want when I want. It also gives me time to think through problems at work and solve them. Indeed, some of my best ideas come while riding the bike to work in the morning.
It's also relaxing, especially compared to driving during rush hour. Most mornings I see cars bunching up on Kelly Drive, horns blasting, drivers visibly stressed. At times like that, it's my turn to laugh at the cars, rather than the other way around.